Friday, 29 May 2020
Another trip from way back 30 years ago. Not a backpacking tour this time but mountains climbed from a static base in Pralognan, a small alpine town with a campsite in the French Alps. You can do a five day hiking trip through the Vanoise region, which has spectacular scenery and large impressive mountains but on this occasion we decided not to do that. The park was created in part to protect and save the Alpine Ibex, seen here in this statue- an impressive mountain goat as large as an antelope with huge curved horns. Luckily, they seem well used to people and have a calm demeanor as they are powerful animals and could do you a lot of damage if they wished.
We decided to take a train a couple of hours east and north to Mont Blanc, at 4,808, 15,775 feet, the highest mountain in western Europe. A view of the Mont Blanc Range here and the Mer de Glace glacier with its distinctive banding. Would the weather improve and would we be able to climb it?
Friday, 22 May 2020
A day later in our walk across the Italian Dolomites on the Alta Via 1 we reached a hut directly under the base of Monte Pelmo, one of the giant mountains of this region. We spent the evening in the hut trying to find out any information we could about the climb but apart from one line 'Monte Pelmo: A long and tiring ascent, if an easy one.' in our guidebook and a post card of Monte Pelmo with a dotted line snaking up it, available for sale in the hut, we gleaned nothing else. We could order beers in Italian, ask about campsites, but that was about it and no one at this hut understood much English on that particular day.
I compared Monte Pelmo to a giant, heavily eroded, white dice in the last post, which is true viewed from some angles with its steep vertical edges falling thousands of feet but here, on this side, the only 'easy' way up this amazing mountain, think of it as a high backed school chair. We had just traversed across the vertical legs and now we found ourselves in a dazzling white limestone scoop of the seat section. It's not called God's Throne for nothing.... and looks like it from afar.
The end. What a great trip. Thanks to Brian and John for the company.
A 5 minute video here of the ascent of Monte Pelmo. These guys are very fast and make it look easy. Probably done it before or used to dolomite levels of exposure. One slip or stumble on that traverse and you are dead though. Probably due to increasing popularity or a higher degree of public safety awareness in modern times several fixed rope sections exist on this ascent by the looks of it. On our climb, over 20 years earlier, it was empty of any confidence booster worth the name but even today it still demands a good head for heights and steady footwork.
Monday, 18 May 2020
Another backpacking holiday trip from yesteryear when I had the energy, legs, and body to crawl over 10,000 mountains in 80 degree heat for 6 to 8 hours a day. Two weeks in the Italian Dolomites this time in mid July. Plane down to London, flight to Rimini on the Italian Adriatic coast, over night in a youth hostel then train to Belluno at the start of the walk. As usual we didn't start the hike until the afternoon as it took time travelling through Italy on the train so darkness fell before we reached this first hut. We ended up bivvying out under the stars in a deep, narrow, damp gorge below it about an hour short of this hut- a not ideal location, dark, dripping, and gloomy even in sunshine, but luckily the only things crawling over us all night were harmless but hand- sized spiders. Sort of daddy long leg types with peanut sized bodies suspended on long limbs.
The near vertical cliffs above proved to be our next challenge as a famous via ferrata starts just above this 7th Alpini Hut and is the sporting start or conclusion of the Alta Via 1. One thousand feet of vertical metal ladders, narrow ledges, and exposed scrambling later saw us attain the notch between the Pelf and Schiara and dump our heavy packs down to get a well earned rest. There is an easier alternative avoiding this first mountain range obstacle but having done years of rock climbing and scrambling back in Scotland we were sure we could take on the direct route over these two mountains. And so it proved.